NFUS blog reviews outcome of beef summit

NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller has published a blog in which he reflected on the beef crisis summit, and looks at how its recommendations could be implemented.

After farmgate beef prices plummeted, due to high supply, suppressed demand, higher imports and reduced exports, George Eustice met with the industry for emergency talks.

Miller said of the meeting: “The George Eustice beef initiative in London last week was never going to provide an immediate answer to this storm. However, bringing all parts of the production chain together from across these islands reflects the reality of the red meat market and starts to identify where change is needed. In the short term the problems cannot be solved at farm level. The outcomes of the summit are part of a process that must be sustained.”

His blog post then went on to address these outcomes: “At retail level, shelf presentation, clear labels and the commitment to move product through offers. Adopting the Red Tractor on processed beef and ready meals provides the assurance consumers increasingly seek, not just on meat but also on vegetables and potatoes. To date only Asda has made real progress in adopting this labelling approach.

“At processor level, a commitment to a more transparent bid price and clear banding of carcase classification has already been the focus of discussion. Agreeing managing and phasing in specification standards should be possible.

“Retailer attempts to tie producers into supply chains or to exclude animals from auction marts without there being contracts to reward commitment and shelter producers from extreme market failures must be unacceptable. If retailers are to seek commitment and security of supply that commitment must be reciprocal. That balanced approach has not been widely adopted.

“Defra has committed to supporting exports and will dedicate an embassy staff member in China to support food exports. There is also an intention to support a beef farm innovation hub as part of the Food and Agricultural strategy underpinned by the Technology Strategy Board. That farm could be a platform for much-needed system development.

“For Scottish producers, however, in the short and medium term retailer behaviour is key. The retention of our high street butchers, our range of processors and a business partnership that can start to diversify our sales into new export markets are priorities.”

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